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Hyperscheduling - How I Find Time to Do Things I Hate

You don’t need schedule time to play video games

Merlin Mann Back to Work

Merlin Mann has said this more than a few times on his great podcast with Dan Benjamin, and it really strikes a chord with me. Not that I play video games (I don’t), but the underyling message really speaks to me: “you don’t need to schedule time to do things you really want to do.”

It’s true; I don’t have any problem finding time throughout the week to work on my book, or hack on open source stuff, or have a great meal with my lovely fiancé. What I do have a problem finding time for are the things I hate doing, but that I feel, intellecutally, that I should be doing.

Given that, in less than two months, I’ll be on a beach in Puerto Rico, getting married, and having my picture taken, I started to get worried. I’m not obese, but I’m far from a healthy weight, and I lead a mostly sedentary lifestyle. I also rarely eat breakfast, leading me to just devour massive amounts of food at lunchtime.

About once a month, I’ll “buckle down” and make breakfast about twice, and make it to the gym a few times, and the back to normal.

Not this time. Other than a life-long partner, the other thing from a wedding that lasts are the pictures. And, if I can’t get myself in some semblance of shape for that, well…I just can’t do it. And I hate not being able to do things.

Doing the things I hate

My problem was this constant feeling of “not enough time in the day.” We seem to have solved this problem at work, and that’s way more complex than my life.

So, I started with a completely empty day, and started to carve things out, one by one.

I wanted to leave work at 6pm every day. That means getting there by 9:30am. And if I want to go to the gym, I’d need to be done working out by 9:00am. I worked all the way through everything I’d need to do, including making breakfast and packing my bag the night before.

As you can see, I’ve scheduled things down to the minute: I get up at 6:50, start making breakfast by 7, and clean it all up in time to leave for the gym by 7:35. I set each of these to loudly alarm on my iPhone, so I keep the right pace.

And yes, I also planned when to eat lunch and what to have (I eat at one of the same three restaurants every day anyway, why bother having to make the decision?).

Does it work?

So far, it has totally worked. I’ve never, ever in my life made it to the gym more than twice in one week. EVER. The first three weeks, I made it 4 times each week, and did 30 minutes of cardio, plus stretches, weights, etc. I was also in bed by 11:00 each night, with my bag packed and ready to go.

And then I got food poisoning, forcing an entire week of not following this schedule.

I was really worried I’d lost all my momentum, that maybe the “newness” of this technique would wear off.

I started right back up

Not a problem; started back into my routine with no problems at all. Now, I’m not tracking calories, weight, or anything (this can’t be about manipulating metrics, it has to be about establishing a healthy routine), but so far, I think this has the highest chance of working its way into my life.

Why does this work?

When I’d make it to the gym, I’d feel rushed. “Shit, I have to hurry, so I can get to work in time to put in the right hours so I can get home and then do fun stuff!” “I won’t go to the gym, because I overslept and I won’t get a proper workout, so why bother?” The excuses went on and on.

Now that everything’s scheduled, I’m not rushed. I never worry that I’ll miss out on anything, because all of my “chores” are accounted for: getting up in time to make a proper breakfast, getting to the gym in time to get a proper work out, getting to work in time to put in my hours and leave at a reasonable hour, etc.

Getting ready the night before is also crucial: it reduces friction for the next day, and also represents a commitment to myself. If I’ve already gone to the trouble of packing up my clothes and stuff for the gym, when I’m groggy the next morning, trying to convince myself to sleep more, I think about that bag: “Well, I’m actually all ready, so I might as well actually go.”

What about scheduling “free time?”

I decided to explicitly not schedule “free” activities. There’s nothing on my calendar that says “work on book” or “make dinner” or “watch TV with fiancé.” As Merlin says, these don’t need to be scheduled, and, honestly, free time doesn’t feel free when the iPhone alarams are going off.

What’s next?

Keep doing it and hope my wedding pictures turn out great! I’ll report back after the honeymoon with the results!